Union find offensive rhythm in victory vs. Schalke
CHESTER, Pa. -- For the fourth time, the Philadephia Union hosted a heavily favored international opponent at PPL Park. And for the fourth time, the Union came out on top.
Philadelphia edged German side Schalke 04 at a rainy PPL Park on Wednesday night, 2-1, in an action-packed affair that saw a missed penalty kick and an 88th minute game-winner from rookie forward Chandler Hoffman.
Schalke recently finished third in the Bundesliga, qualifying for UEFA Champions League play. The Union previously edged Celtic, Everton and Chivas Guadalajara, all by 1-0 scorelines.
“We didn’t come here to lose the game,” said American international Jermaine Jones, who played central defense for Schalke. “We encountered a very fit team in Philadelphia. I think we started out well but we couldn’t score.”
Lionard Pajoy opened the scoring in the 21st minute when he headed home Keon Daniel’s clinical bending free kick from 35 yards out. Schalke's Sergia Escudero leveled in the 41st minute, but Hoffman sealed the deal for the Union with a low finish following a deflected Ray Gaddis cross.
“Antoine had the ball out wide and found Ray, who was able to get around the defender -- he has great pace,” said Hoffman. “I was holding my run up a little and saw their center back hanging back. I was trying to find the back post and was able to do that."
"We wanted to see this," added Union coach John Hackworth, who manned the sideline on Wednesday. "Taking advantage of every chance was something our players obviously had in mind, and they took them tonight, which was great. We did a good job of stretching the defense, which is something we needed badly, and that was good for us and gives these guys a lot of motivation as we move forward."
The Union will look to carry their newfound momentum into a Sunday matinee against the New York Red Bulls (12:30pm, ESPN2, TICKETS).
For his part, Jones will take a short break before returning to the U.S. for national team duty.
“I’m flying home to Germany, then I’ll be back in Orlando on May 15 to join the national team,” said Jones. “We want to win our next two qualifying games. And we want to win the exhibition games against (Scotland and Brazil) that we have on the calendar. (Manager) Jurgen Klinsmann is coaching this team to success. I think the biggest difference is practice. Klinsmann takes physical fitness very seriously, maybe more than Bob Bradley did. I think Bob Bradley, maybe he didn’t push his players as hard, but he had good close relationships with them.”
Wednesday’s match also served as a final Schalke farewell for striker Raul. The Spanish legend will play for a new club next season outside of Europe.
“The whole team was grateful to play with him for the past two years,” said Jones. “He’s a great person and he has a wonderful personality. He has character and he always fights for the team. We can all learn from him.”
WATCH: Post-match reactions